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Sailing Santos-Barcelona aboard Costa Favolosa 13-28 April 23 - any questions?


Skipper Tim
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I am now aboard the Costa Favolosa with my elderly mother, having joined in Santos, Brazil yesterday and currently docked in Rio de Janeiro. We booked a guarantee inside cabin each and we we given two of the designated 'inside single' cabins, 5 decks apart! Thankfully we are connected by the same nearby lift. 

 

I will use this thread to make the occasional post but if there are any questions, please ask them. 

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If you can, posting some pictures would be nice.

Not the typical ones of Atrium, Casino or MDR, more the 'everyday/casual' photos.

 

I'll be sailing the Favolosa in August (Norwegian Fjords) and would really like to see how other passengers are enjoying their time on board.

How are the cocktails (the taste, not how they look), any particular crew members that stand out?

So: I guess what I'm asking you is to enjoy yourselves and to have fun! (and maybe post a picture of it)

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Greetings from the Palatino Grand Bar of the Costa Favolosa, somewhere off the coast of Brazil, where a Portuguese language lesson has just begun. I am a little irritated that we are so far off the coast of Brazil not to be within mobile range - and hence be able to use my prepaid mobile data package rather than the ship's extortionate data packages. However, Costa have a pay-per-minute option too, so I am pre-writing this and then will try to post on FB in less than a minute. I think the captain may have learned the lesson of the sinking of the sister ship, the Costa Concordia, and has chosen to given the coast an extremely wide berth.

 

Yesterday, we had written replies to change to a larger table at dinner. In a word, 'No'. So mother and I again sat at our dinner table,  dreading the arrival of our absent table mates - a 4-table can be a disaster if you don't like the other two, while an 8-table or 10-table sorts itself out (and any offending person tends to leave in favour of the buffet). They didn't come. We asked our waiter if he knew if there were other people at our table. "No it is just you two", he laughed. 

 

This morning we were commenting that is was day 3 on the ship and we still not heard another native English speaker, of any nationality. And to think I cancelled a package of 7 meals in the premium speciality restaurant because we thought we might annoy our fellow table mates being absent on so many occasions! It is too late to re-instate the package, we would have to pay the full price now, at almost three times the cost. Ah regrets.

 

Dinner is timed at two hours with our sitting at 7pm and the second sitting at 9:30pm. If you miss out a course, you have to wait while others eat theirs. Last night we both had the first three courses then skipped dessert. I can safely say, none of the dishes at dinner are quite like anything I have ever had before. I was accustomed to (the other Italian cruise line) MSC's terrible translations on their ships and I used to cross-reference between the other languages in the menu for clues. On Costa, the default system is to scan the QR code on the table, choose your language and read the menu on your phone. This only encourages people to bring and play with their phones at the dinner table. Paper menus are available by request. Needless to say we requested paper menus but these are only in English on one side of freshly-printed A4 so I can't cross-reference with the other languages. The English reads quite well apart from all the compulsory Italian names but what comes bears little relation to the menu description. Having said that, I have found the food its presentation excellent. My mother was not so pleased with her 'Spicy cockerel' last night. She appeared to get a whole, old bird on her plate. It was dead and cooked but she left enough to feed a small horse. 

 

After dinner Mother retired to read while I was determined to do a survey of all the remaining bars to find a 'quiet bar' for the evenings. There wasn't one. Commendably there were 6 different bars or lounges with live music (ranging from 'international hits' to Brazilian folk), plus one with recorded music, in various sizes and shades of brightness but all were loud and mostly occupied by partying Brazilians. They know how to party, all the time. Then the daily program arrived in the night and there was mention of an event in the 'Sunset bar' which I had previously written-off because it is right at the top of the ship, deck 12, and there is no lift access beyond deck 11. I thought it odd that there would be an event without proper accessibility. So I set off in my fetching sleepwear and suede slippers to investigate at 2 a.m.. Sure enough there is one very small lift tucked away only serving decks 11 & 12. It was very noisy and slow. Perhaps it gets missed out on servicing? The bar is usually eventless (tonight's event is quite a tame 'solo's meet-up'), the smallest on the ship, only opens from 6pm and has comfortable sofas and armchairs with plump cushions. The dangerous little lift will suffice and this evening we will try the the Sunset Bar - though it will be facing exactly the wrong direction for the sunset - and I may find my mother a new husband in the process. 

 

We were greeted at the opening of breakfast in the 'other' main dining (i.e. not the one we are allocated to for dinner) by the senior restaurant manager with a particularly dramatic, "Buono Giourno!". I reciprocated (I have a talent for OTT foreign accents:-)), following by an exaggerated English "Good Morning!". He reciprocated - I had met my match! "Where are you from?", he asked. "Oh, I love England. I have been to Southampton and visited the countryside. It is much like Brazil". "That must be because of the rain", I said - there was no other straight-faced reply I could give. He accompanied my mother to her chair, at the nearest table for two, like a perfect gentleman. The masses all have to sit together on long tables in the order in which they arrive. "Seems like a nice young man", Mother observed. 

 

We are mastering the breakfast menu. Today I discovered that the "Low fat natural yogurt" is the same as "Natural yogurt" except with added water. I won't repeat that, I hope. Toast is not available but bread is compulsory, as is water and orange juice. I had the quite modest but very tasty 'almost English breakfast' of bacon (I suspect grilled cured ham), scrambled eggs, spicy little sausages and genuine baked beans - they must carry a few cans for the occasional Brit. Mother had the bacon and mushroom omelette that came with a little ramekin of raw onion shards. We both finished with a bread roll, soft butter and marmalade. The coffee with hot milk never stopped flowing, until it did, a little wave was enough to restart the flow. Mother didn't like facing the two waiting staff leaning on their station a few feet away and staring at her. We have twice been their only table. She and I will rotate again tomorrow. I don't mind them staring at us and it will be easier for me to keep them occupied. 

 

After a quick change of costime, Mother was keen to ascend to a quiet reading position on deck in the intense sunshine. Having taken her previous feedback about being on the deck at the stern - loud music from the bar, partying Brazilians and some random workman hammering the railings near her, plus the excessive heat while in port, I found an unoccupied side deck on deck 10 with none of that. The only issue was the wind. The ship was almost 2 hours late leaving Rio and an announcement during gentle pre-dinner conversation, deafening and in 6 languages, said this was due to maritime traffic and they would make up time. Now we are coasting at near maximum speed, 20 knots - almost 30 mph. I could see from the crests of the waves that the wind is also against us. I had to hold down the towel while Mother got herself into position on the sun bed, lest it blow away. I checked-in on her an hour later. Reading had proved impossible due to the wind but she was fine just sunbathing. Another hour later I took her a large plastic glass of iced water from the buffet to rehydrate her, I feared if she persisted, she like look like a dried prune at dinner but gladly, she admitted defeat and I returned her to her merely air-conditioned cabin. 

 

Mother skipped lunch due to the large breakfast and the impending large dinner. Tonight, after 'solo's meet-up' in the Sunset Bar, it is the first evening with a suggested dress code that isn't 'Country' but rather 'Elegant/Extravagant'. I will be able to put aside my tweeds, flat cap and wellingtons in favour of something more 'Elton John' or 'Liberace'. Mother intends wearing black velvet and diamonds but she didn't bring her diamond tiara - again! I feel she doesn't get enough use out of it IMG_1688.jpeg.5462d3c9f41abf2ab4440181eb1dd12b.jpegIMG_1690.jpeg.755f3f75083f6fa955c737b606c02560.jpeg70311140303__4C31B003-30B3-413E-ADD7-A8DFCB8F7159.fullsizerender.jpeg.ce705e1852e104af4fe7612f71f2c6c9.jpegIMG_1695.jpeg.4ed44d23373909ddb159a265c0713ef9.jpegIMG_1697.jpeg.485c6991748a7170027fd10a61b33c6c.jpegIMG_1705.jpeg.957ef0966c1fdbd9e9d2be539c5a2ef4.jpegIMG_1702.jpeg.89d1798bf6fd969aef7ca7f1378c37db.jpegIMG_1706.jpeg.4c1efe4ec9cb1e7730b85e7105e3e3cc.jpegIMG_1712.jpeg.014b34b4d820565fd6a58defb2431356.jpegIMG_1715.jpeg.ab200f4399059bce382b95ca527ffd7a.jpegIMG_1716.jpeg.5afe19ef4278197b78b7eb36c25b148f.jpeg

 

 

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1 hour ago, Dancer Bob said:

You flew into Sao Paulo? Any comments on getting to the ship?

 

We have a large Brazilian community here. I wouldn't disagree with "noisey".

I made the journey from Sao Paulo airport (GRU) to Santos for a cruise several years ago by public transport. There is an express bus from the airport to Santos bus station and from there you can get a taxi to the cruise terminal. However it is fraught with risk! Both the bus and the taxi became log-jammed in the commercial traffic for the port - thousands of huge trucks - many times. 

 

This time we took the insurance of booking a hotel near the cruise terminal for the night before and as I was travelling with my elderly mother, booked a private transfer via Gettransfer.com (GBP £65.51). The journey took 2.5 hrs. The next day we were just a 3 mile taxi journey away from the cruise terminal and, crucially, not on the trucks' route to the port! 

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Greetings from the Costa Favolosa now docked in Maceio. The port is unaccustomed to cruise ships and indeed, we are not allowed to walk through the port. Thankfully there is a free shuttle to take passengers to a makeshift 'terminal'. Maceio is an odd collection of natural harbour filled with little wooden boats, a commercial port, a town with a old centre surrounded by high-rise apartment blocks and fronted by a white sand beach. However, at under 10 degrees South of the equator, it is rather hot outside and egg-frying weather in the sun. Mother was fried this morning and is now in her air-conditioned cabin repenting. 

 

Last night we returned to our new favourite bar - the Sunset Lounge Bar at the top of the ship near the front and the only quiet bar on the ship. On Saturday it was the venue for the solos' meet-up. Rather than the newly-widowed ladies looking for replacement husbands one usually finds at such an event on a cruise, it was very much a young meat market. The protocol appeared to be young women arrive and sit on the long sofa near the entrance. They flutter their eyelids and flash their tattoos, then a young man would come from the opposite side of the room, say two or three words then lead his chosen one to a private table for social intercourse. A DJ was brought in later to spare any deep conversation and to allow the prospectives to admire each other's dance moves and aromas. 

 

It was just a quiet bar with at most a dozen people in last night (pictured). The entire sea side of the bar is totally open so, had there been a sunset on that side of the ship, it could have been admired unobscured from the comfort of a sofa, with just enough tasteful lighting to see one's drink. As was, we had a beautiful view of Salvador's carpark (multi-storey, not a painting). We are not scheduled to leave Maceio until 7pm today, the bar will be facing almost due West, so we could be in for an actual sunset there this evening. 

 

The highlight of dinner for me was the cheese plate. I have been deprived of cheese since boarding - it is never an option on the menu. The first night when I declined a dessert course, I asked if there was any cheese. Our waiter just laughed.  I had another go last night. He asked, "And for dessert?". I replied, "Nothing, unless you can find any cheese, even off the floor". He brought me the pictured cheese plate - oh it went so well with the heavy red wine I have been drinking. I expressed my happiness as we were leaving. "OK, it is the cheese plate for tomorrow", accepting defeat.

 

We sail overnight to Recife - our last stop in Brazil, in South America and in the West side of the Atlantic. At least that is the plan. 

 

Until tomorrow. IMG_1733.thumb.jpeg.d48212726dbf384258a3749581e85087.jpegIMG_1727.thumb.jpeg.fb57d2b11fc1c7ecb30bdc6f0a163cb4.jpegIMG_1729.thumb.jpeg.984aa731a0a08df6bddc2e554fee9108.jpeg

Edited by Skipper Tim
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In Argentine Tango, the invitation is the Cabeceo. Eye contact, the man (very macho culture) nods as invitation, the woman nods as accepting, the man then approaches. (The initial figure is La Salida, the Exit, to the dance floor.) Sounds a lot like this.

Another question, did you find Brazilian visas a hassle?

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  • "This is your captain speaking, Here we go!" He is a man of few words but undeniable enthusiasm in his voice. So at 3 O'clock yesterday (ship's time) we were steaming from the 'East coast of Brazil with nothing ahead of us but ocean'. 

    Backtrack to the previous evening. We were at the Sunset Lounge bar just before it's 6pm opening yesterday but the sun had already set so we missed out again. One downside of having an inside cabin is not knowing whether it is light or dark outside, unless the 'ship's cam channel' is left on the TV. However the channel alternates between the bow and stern cameras and the stern is brightly lit at night. So there is 10 seconds of sleep-inducing darkness, followed by 10 seconds of waking brightness. It does not make for a easy night's sleep. I did try. 

    We left Maceio just as dinner was getting underway. It was the very first time I have seen my fellow diners adhere to the evening's dress code - 'casual'! I had to include a photo of yesterday's 'signature starter' by multi-Michelin starred chef, Bruno Barbieri. It sounded disgusting, so I had to try it. Described as, 

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    "Tomato, basil and mozzarella milk shake served with “Casatiello” bread".

    It was actually a cube of fried bread in a watery tomato sauce. I think I could do far better myself. I think Bruno should go back to making tyres. 

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    After dinner, Mother retired to read and I went to investigate the wine bar which has a live pianist every night. I was suitably impressed with the music and atmosphere.  So the wine bar was last night's venue for pre-dinner drinks as it would have been be blowing a gale in the Sunset Lounge, completely open on one side and with the ship travelling almost 20 knots. I fear all those lovely cushions being blown over the side. It would however be a great opportunity for people with 'big hair' to demonstrate the effectiveness of competing hair products.
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    Yesterday's change in ship's time was a little weird. I have never been on a ship when ship's time changed while we were still in port. Usually it happens overnight so as not to confuse people - what do the times on the daily program then mean? The announcement said, "One o'clock will be two o'clock" and thus it was. I think it was to catch out the guests just boarding at Recife so that they missed lunch. It didn't work as the scenes in the buffet were chaotic. We were literally above all that on the non-operating, second level of the buffet, watching the mad scrum for food below while eating our burgers and chips (obtained from the rear pool deck burger bar that people think they have to pay for so it is always quiet!) 
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    Mother and I had a night off the MDR so we could listen to more music in the piano bar and attend the earlier 'Captain's Welcome Cocktail Party' in the theatre. It wasn't overly personal in a three-decked theatre but at least we got a free glass of Prosecco out of it. We had a light dinner in the buffet - a first for us this cruise. I was missing a simple salad, and Mother things to eat that she could actually recognise. 

    We crossed the equator around 10pm last night. The King Neptune baptisms were scheduled to take place at a late night pool party then again this morning. 

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    Time for breakfast!
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    IMG_1744.thumb.jpeg.b83ee6a1423e71888d42e16fd468abc4.jpeg

    From somewhere in the Atlantic. 
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Greetings from the library of the Costa Favolosa! Apart from my cabin, it is the only quiet place on the ship. Even the corridors and the lifts have 24/7 piped music. Half the public areas of the ship are in permanent party and the remaining bits are just loud and chaotic. There must be something about the vocal chords of Brazilians, Italians, Spanish etc. that has evolved over time making them incapable of speaking quietly when there is any other sound. I am sure this cruise will have cost me hearing damage simply due to the din of people speaking incessantly. 

Last night was 'almost karaoke' for me. Mother encouraged me to go along to the 'karaoke audition' last week but it was past my bedtime. However, the same item appeared on yesterday's daily programme again and as I found myself awake at 11pm, I thought I would have a look. It was held in the 'Moliere Lounge', one of the smaller and at the very back of the ship. When I arrived, I was stunned to find it absolutely packed, standing room only, with what I would estimate to be 500-600 people in there. The compare took to the floor and introduced the 3 'judges'. I felt totally out of my depth and was leaving when the first participant took to the floor. He did Robbie Williams' 'Angels' without hitting a single note. The long loud one was so excruciating he got a round of applause. I paused. The next act was in French and also pretty unmusical. 

Despite the size of the audience, I thought I could be relatively passable. I dashed back to my cabin, put on some long trousers to be taken more seriously and picked up my Lennon sunglasses to be taken less so. I thought, given the international audience, 'All You Need is Love' would be the right song. I did one rehearsal with my laptop, wrote down the name of the song, 'The Beatles' and "Tim (English)" on a card. I presented it to the organising committee sitting at a table just to the left of the stage and asked, "May I take part?". "No, it is closed" was the abrupt reply. And that was that - my 'almost karaoke'. I listened to one more before sulking off to bed. I shared my disappointment with Mother this morning at breakfast - why call it "audition" if it is "closed" to newcomers? Their loss! 

I feel the captain is finding his feet. At precisely noon today there was a terrific blast of the ship's horn lasting around 20 seconds. Everyone I could see initially jumped, all conversations and entertainments were paused while people's internal organs vibrated, followed by, "Bongiorno, this is your captain!". He gave us some basic navigational information and finished with his usual flourish, shouting, "Allez! so loudly it distorted the PA. Now there is a man who is clearly enjoying his job. Apparently we will be passing close to the Cape Verde Islands tomorrow around 4am (or pm). Hopefully not too close. I would have preferred to call there instead of Tenerife. We may still, inadvertently. 

The dress code this evening is 'Italian'. Mother and I will be in mafioso black, wear our sunglasses and arrange for the head of a horse to be delivered to the organiser of last night's karaoke event.

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Good afternoon from the Dei Diamanti (atrium) bar of the Costa Favolosa. The atrium is actually a rather impressive 6 decks high - impressive from the bottom or in the scenic elevator but not for the faint of heart looking down from the top. 

We cleared the Cape Verde islands overnight. We passed quite close according to the 'Ship Locator' function of the Costa app. I was out on deck at around 4:45 am but didn't see a single light. After four full days at sea with nothing to see except a couple of birds hovering over the ship, we could just be going around in circles. 

I have renewed my acquaintance with cruise ship jacuzzis that started over 20 years ago on the back of the QE2 crossing the Atlantic in January. The QE2's were painfully hot to get in and then painfully cold to get out of - in the icy Atlantic air and travelling at 30 knots. This wimpy tropical jacuzziing is far less challenging. My main issue is having overly-long limbs and trying not to let them interfere with other people. I am not really in control of my limbs at the best of times ('mal co-ordinated' I call it). In a jacuzzi the force of the bubbles could very easily lead to an awkward incident. Although the stated capacity is 15 people, I won't get in if there is already more than 3 people. I was on standby all of yesterday but the circumstances were never right. It was Mother's suggestion to go before breakfast today to avoid the throng. It was a masterstroke. At 8am I had one of the two stern jacuzzis to myself. Freedom! I even found myself singing. 

We are due in Tenerife Monday at 10 am. I have developed a list of things to do that have been largely prevented by excessively expensive internet access - like listen to BBC Radio 4,  research all the odd-ball subjects that occur from time to time, email random photos to the unsuspecting and catchup on other people's Facebook posts and blogs. Yes, I am suffering from internet starvation. It would not have happened 20 years ago. 

We had a break from Charles Aznavour in the Wine bar last night and instead headed to the Sunset bar at the top front of the ship. As hoped, they had closed most of the open side with glass to spare our hair styles. However there is a new, resident hazard - a 'DJ'. When I was young, a DJ was a person that played records at a pub when your rented their function room for a birthday party. Now they are international megastars. This Dj's first 'set' every evening is described as 'Chillout Music'. I am not sure which planet she comes from but a constant disco beat played across varying, heavily filtered changes in artificial noise is not my idea of 'chillout'. She spoils an otherwise pleasant bar. The sound of the ocean below would be far more relaxing. I may give her an SD card filled with my 'Chillout' music - almost 15 hours of the most relaxing classical. Then, perhaps not. 

Final whinge for today, I think, is the tardiness with which people arrive for dinner. Unless you pay extra to dine at one of the speciality restaurants, dinner is served in two sittings in the two main dining rooms. Dining room, table no. and sitting, either 7pm or 9:30pm, are allocated at embarkation and printed on each person's cruise card. Requests for changes may be made but are not guaranteed, e.g. we asked to be moved to a larger table - denied! Mother and I are still stuck by ourselves. However, we sit side-by-side at our 4-table observing the whole dining room scene before us.

The reason a cruise liner has fixed-time sittings is simply for efficiency. Serving dinner to over two thousand people requires synchronisation to make it work such that we are divided into two restaurants with one common kitchen between them, two fixed sittings and we are all on the same course at around the same time. 

To our left is the Italian table, who are guaranteed to arrive half an hour late, studying the menu when most people are waiting for their second course. To our right is the French table who can arrive over an hour late and then spend ages with their waiter discussing the menu options. There are many other offenders. These people may have never known fixed-time 'sittings' and thus not know how to behave. It is the failing of the cruise line not to educate them. On other lines, the dining room doors are locked after 10 minutes from opening time and a sign put outside to the effect of 1st sitting closed, 2nd at such a time. Being repeatedly forced to the buffet for being late is the kindest way to educate them. As is, it is discourteous to fellow diners and to the staff who have to work even harder to cope with all these rude stragglers. 

Huddersfield Town are not playing today, thank heavens. 

Allez! 

IMG_1781.thumb.jpeg.c8b5d645d2cbc47b5c72c8f5c089f4d3.jpeg

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Good afternoon from the peaceful library of the Costa Favolosa. At 12pm, the Captain informed us that we will cross the Tropic of Cancer at 12:40pm today, so then we will be officially out of the tropics, with 354 miles to go to Tenerife. It is distinctly un-tropical on deck with a stiff 25 knots of wind from the North East, on top of our almost 20 knots against it. The brave souls up there are tucked in behind whatever wind-breaks they can find and some of them have remained fully-clothed. I had the jacuzzi to myself again early this morning, with good reason - it was freezing to get in and out of. I will try again when in port tomorrow but I think my 'jacuzzi at sea therapy' is over. However, I do feel cured.

 

Mother and I continue to deconstruct the dinner menus. Despite all the flowery descriptions and consistently stunning presentation, the ingredients appear to be very cheap. E.g. last night I had the "Piedmontese braised beef with polenta and vegetables “tagliatelle”. This was a small wafer of beef hiding a bed of mashed potato with gravy and grated raw carrot on top. Much use is made of instant mash and old bread. My starter had both of them: "Salmon mousse" was salmon paste mixed with mashed potato piped on to a slice of dry bread but it looked fabulous. I could not resist the dessert, in preference to my usual cheese plate, because it had the longest description of any menu item we have seen so far, "Nockolate: a hazelnut mousse with a heart of chocolate pannacotta on vanilla biscuit, hazelnut streusel, chocolate ganaches and white chocolate chips". This was artificial cream in a plain cake sandwich topped with two chocolate flavoured sections of artificial cream topped with a profiter ball and drizled with chocolate sauce. 

 

Whenever we have had a mussels dish, whether soup, starter or main course, there have been precisely two mussels each. Often one is put inside a shell for effect, no doubt washed and re-used. 

 

It underlines the point that on a cruise ship labour is cheap but ingredients are not. Extreme creativity and labour are used to present what are otherwise very cheap (but mostly nutritious) meals. The UK school dinners lobby could learn a thing or two from Costa Cruises. I loved school dinners, much as I am enjoying Costa food, but I will be glad to get back to my own cooking. 

 

After four one-hour time changes, we are now on UK time (BST). We still have one more to go before we reach Cadiz on Wednesday. One consequence of this was that, for the first time, it was still light outside when we had dinner yesterday. If something could be done about that resident DJ woman, we could even enjoy a sunset from the Sunset Bar. Perhaps they will give her tomorrow off?

 

The centre of craziness today is the relatively sheltered main pool deck. It resembles a three-ring circus with simultaneous activities, some I think transferred from the pool area at the stern, all involving much noise and audience participation. Here, the blue sea is peacefully rolling by the library windows. 

 

Until Tenerife!

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Edited by Skipper Tim
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@Skipper Tim

My wife and I have only cruised on lines catering to English speakers (Holland America, Cunard, Oceania, etc.), but I've always been curious about what the Costa experience might be like. Thank you for enlightening me. By my standards, Costa would be perfectly awful. After an hour or two onboard, my head would be imploding from the non-stop noise. By the second day, I'd want to put my head in a gas oven. I have no idea how you and your long-suffering mother are holding up---maybe that British "stiff upper lip" attitude we've always heard about is really true.

 

Anyway, your trip reports have been endlessly amusing and insightful, and I hope you'll continue writing them until you return home.

 

Jim

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5 hours ago, jimdee3636 said:

@Skipper Tim

My wife and I have only cruised on lines catering to English speakers (Holland America, Cunard, Oceania, etc.), but I've always been curious about what the Costa experience might be like. Thank you for enlightening me. By my standards, Costa would be perfectly awful. After an hour or two onboard, my head would be imploding from the non-stop noise. By the second day, I'd want to put my head in a gas oven. I have no idea how you and your long-suffering mother are holding up---maybe that British "stiff upper lip" attitude we've always heard about is really true.

 

Anyway, your trip reports have been endlessly amusing and insightful, and I hope you'll continue writing them until you return home.

 

Jim

Thanks Jim. Costa is not my cup of tea either. I think we have done well to mitigate Costa's worst aspects - going to the relatively quiet areas, heading in the opposite direction to the crowds etc. and picking out a bit of choice entertainment (we like the Wine Bar entertainment early on, but it is incredibly repetitive and gets noisy later). I must say I prefer smaller ships, a table of dining mates to talk to, better food and to sit among people who know how to use cutlery correctly. At least it was cheap!

 

4 days from now we will be home with another bag of mixed memories. It has been a busy day. I will probably post another episode tomorrow - the penultimate sea day. 

 

Tim.

 

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Good afternoon from my cabin on the Costa Favolosa where I have just moved the clocks forward for the last time this trip. 'Clocks' here is phone, laptop and old-fashioned watch. The Captain has just blasted his horn and spoken. We have 400 miles to go to Cadiz, the sky is clear, the temperature is 20 degrees and the wind is 25 knots from the North. With our heading just off North and speed of almost 20 knots, the wind on deck is almost 50 miles per hour. There are few sunbathers up there today. 

 

Yesterday we tied up in Santa Cruz de Tenerife around 08:30. We were repeatedly told to wait for the Spanish authorities to clear the ship before queuing to get off. According to the barman in the Sunset bar last night, 90% of the guests got off yesterday which made for a blissfully quiet ship. I had three jacuzzis to my self - none were as good as my regular at the back which was closed for maintenance - the main madness area around the mid-ships pool was deserted and Mother read in peace and without wind on her usual deck. 

 

Then the drill started. I was sitting in the upper level of the buffet when the first of many announcements started, "Only for crew, only for drill...". A fire broke out practically where I was sitting. A lady in full fire costume came in and told me I had to move. I obliged. The fire spread to three decks, the general emergency signal sounded and then, "Only for crew, only for drill. Abandon ship!". None of their drills ever have a happy ending. Why couldn't we have had, "Fire extinguished, return to your duties" instead?

 

After that, to make the most of peace on board, Mother and I forced ourselves to have a civilised lunch in the main dining room. There were two other tables with an old lady at each and about a dozen waiting staff between us but otherwise it was deserted. We both had the soup followed by very salty plaice. Much of the food is very salty I assume to encourage drinks sales. A glass of water end up costing €3.91 including 15% service charge because the minimum you can have is a litre bottle and they won't keep it for another meal. 

 

After Mother finished her toasting on deck, I went ashore to look at the prices of cigarettes and brandy. They were more than the airport duty free prices so I returned empty-handed. I noticed literally hundreds of crew returning fully-laden with shopping bags and even trolleys of shopping. I mentioned this to the bar man last night and he burst out laughing. "Yes, Brazil is not a cheap place to buy anything so you can imagine, six months buying nothing, then we arrive here! Splurge!". 

 

When I returned from shore, Mother alerted me to a real emergency. She had lost her watch, probably where she had been sunbathing. She had already been back but her sun bed had been straightened and there was no watch. I was dispatched to reception to report it: a Cartier ladies watch, in all-silver. Except it was a cheap Turkish fake, silver-coloured metal not silver, Calvin Klein not Cartier and a man's watch! I know because I found it on the floor next to her sun bed immediately after reporting the loss! "Oh yes, that's it". There had been the risk that Mother would have used me as the speaking clock as she lives a device-free life but I had already contemplated lending her my watch - despite the proven risk involved. 

 

We should have left Tenerife at 6pm but were delayed by "late returning guests". This must have been one of the line's own organised tours because I know a cruise ship will routinely hand over the contents of the safes of any guests not boarded on time to the port agent and leave them behind. Santa Cruz had not improved since my last visit, also by cruise ship, around 10 years ago. It is now no longer possible just to cross the road to and from the cruise terminal. Rather there is a new, enforced, long pedestrian route through a shopping centre, much like the enforced duty free mazes at UK airports. 

 

The listed highlight of the day in the daily programme was a "tribute to Abba" after dinner. It fell short of using the word "band". We didn't have high hopes so I went alone to check it out. Sure enough it was the DJ playing Abba Gold with three silly animation team dancing on the stage. I reported back to Mother and we both retired. I can listen to Abba anytime and I have a policy of not dancing in public, in case I cause injury (due to long limbs, mal co-ordination and my unique dancing style). 

 

Despite having being reunited with her watch Mother overslept this morning. "Well it had to happen sometime", she explained. Partly because of this we broke with routine and went to the buffet for breakfast. Post-pandemic one no longer controls what goes on the plate at a buffet. It is semi self-service. You can point and say but ultimately, someone behind a screen decides what to pick up and how much to plonk on your plate they have in their hands. For example, all the bananas on board have been under-ripe so rather than turn our cabins into ripening facilities, we have passed. This morning, the fruit man had precisely 4 bananas in his basket when we reached him. One huge and green, one tiny and green, and two normal-sized and ripe. I asked for two bananas. You would think he would give us the two bananas that were both ripe and the same size. No, the opposite. I didn't want to cause a big scene over bananas so I accepted them and walked away cursing inside. Had I been able to choose my own, this issue would never have arisen. And so it is for everything at the buffet. Even the coffee is controlled by a member of staff who pours and adds the milk in front of you without asking how much of each. This style of buffet is not for perfectionists or control freaks. That was our buffet experience. Hopefully the last on this trip. 

 

All "non-Europeans" were invited by letter to retrieve their passports this morning (they were confiscated upon embarkation in Brazil). I attended at the set time and explained that we are Europeans just not in the European Union and their wording should be corrected. I could see it was lost on them. 

 

Time to inspect the decks!

 

Tim.
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Edited by Skipper Tim
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NE 20, 18d 337NM 12:23

Afternoon from the Palatino Lounge of the Costa Favolosa, now in the Mediterranean Sea, somewhere just off Almeria, on our final full day aboard. 

 

Two nights ago we had the best meal of the cruise. We both had the same, thank heavens. The starter was finely diced fruit, a mix of sweet and bitter assembled into a cube and drizzled with something decorative. The soup was delicious although we noticed the chef had slipped in a little instant mash to give it body. The main was another of the Michelin 'signature' dishes - remarkably simple, perfectly tender, two chicken breast fillets in a subtle lemon sauce and a little garnish. Mother was even pleased with her dessert while I hade my usual mixed cheese and fruit plate. We were astonished. The neighbouring French table just arrived as we stood up to leave. 

 

Yesterday around noon we arrived in the crowded port of Cadiz, where there were already four cruise ships in before us and we were then joined by the rather a lovely Windstar ship around a tenth the size of hours. Mother looked on in envy, "That's what we should be on". I researched the line. I was later able to ressassure her that Windstar don't have any formal nights, "Oh, that won't do". 

 

We were scheduled to depart Cadiz at 9pm so the plan was to fully appreciate the quiet ship with the masses ashore and then I would go ashore later, once they had started returning. That was the plan - but our combined regular timetables are just so busy there isn't really time to go ashore. I admitted defeat around 5pm, when it was almost time to change for dinner and head for the Sunset bar for pre-dinner drinks. I witnessed our departure from the stern of deck 10 (pictured). 

 

Mother has become acclimatised to the tropics and found the Southern Mediterranean weather at the end of April too cold to sunbathe this morning. She is conscious that she must finish and return her current library books or face a €15 fine for each book. She pointed out that some of the books, all paperbacks, are in such a poor condition, with many loose pages, that they should just be thrown away and that where she buys hers, at Huddersfield market, at three for a £1, they wouldn't dare sell them in that condition. As the ship's librarian said, "This is not a normal library".

 

I went on our behalf to receive our marching orders for tomorrow: luggage out by 1am, us out of our cabins by 10:30 am, early lunch, then assemble at the designated meeting point, to be notified, and wait to be led off sometime between 1 and 3pm. The presenter was at pains to encourage us to complete the questionnaire that will be delivered tonight and especially the question, "Would you recommend Costa Cruise to a friend or relative?". She said it was like thanking the staff to give a 9 or 10, so think carefully of how the staff have been to us. I will be answering all the questions as they are written. I may, at the right price, go on another Costa Cruise but I would never recommend Costa to anyone I knew (and liked). We each only paid £320 (with another compulsory £160 in 'hotel charges') and I would say that is about the right price. Of course we had our flights and transfers to find at both ends too. 

 

Our flight is at 5pm and then it will be back to central heating, self-catering, native English-speakers and our doggie. 

 

Short of any last minute disaster, I believe that this is the end of this travel blog. Thanks for joining us.

 

Allez! 

 

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@Skipper Tim

I've greatly enjoyed your cruise impressions. 

 

I was astonished to see that disembarkation is between 1:00PM and 3:00PM. On all 25 or so cruises I've been on, you normally have to be off the ship no later than about 9:30AM. Of course, those were all on U.S.-based lines (HAL, Princess, Oceania, etc.). I guess that means that on Costa new passengers can't board until at least late afternoon, maybe early evening. Europe really is different, it seems.

 

Anyway, enjoy your return to "sunny" Yorkshire!

Jim

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11 hours ago, jimdee3636 said:

@Skipper Tim

I've greatly enjoyed your cruise impressions. 

 

I was astonished to see that disembarkation is between 1:00PM and 3:00PM. On all 25 or so cruises I've been on, you normally have to be off the ship no later than about 9:30AM. Of course, those were all on U.S.-based lines (HAL, Princess, Oceania, etc.). I guess that means that on Costa new passengers can't board until at least late afternoon, maybe early evening. Europe really is different, it seems.

 

Anyway, enjoy your return to "sunny" Yorkshire!

Jim

I think it is because this is a repositioning cruise the times have been quite different at each port along the way. We are due in to Barcelona at 1pm local. Today's daily programme gives further details of disembarkation. We will be leaving in stages every 30 mins between 2pm and 4pm with an 'all off' by 4:15pm. A barman told us that out of around 2,200 currently aboard, there will be 500 leaving and 700 new arrivals at Barcelona. This being Costa, a few hundred will embark and disembark at every port now until the end of the Mediterranean summer season. Not at all like a US line! 

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